Colt Technology Services takes 'Lean NFV' on a test drive

Colt Technology Services is about to shift into its third network functions virtualization (NFV) iteration, and it's currently running "Lean NFV" in a pilot.

Lean NFV took center stage last April at the Open Networking Summit in San Jose, California. Startup Nefeli Networks is offering the commercialized version of the Lean NFV software. Nefeli Networks was founded in 2016 by Nefeli Networks CTO Sylvia Ratnasamy, who is an associate professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, and Chairman Scott Shenker, who was co-founder and initial CEO of Nicira before it was sold in 2012 to VMware for $1.26 billion.

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Shenker and Ratnasamy also co-founded, which is the entity behind the public-facing Lean NFV architecture. Ratnasamy previously said in an interview with FierceTelecom that she and Shenker had been working on a NFV management integration element for about six years. 

Lean NFV proposes adding a new element to NFV, which is a key-value (KV) store that serves as a universal focal point for integration. While NFV has brought some improvements to service providers' networks, it has also led to a morass of complexities, which have caused slower NFV deployments or multiple integrations of it. CenturyLink is on its fourth iteration of NFV, and Colt isn't far behind.

"We plan to run this pilot with Nefeli over the next few months. Probably until the end of the first quarter," said Colt's Mirko Voltolini, global head of network on demand, and who is also one of the signatories on the Lean NFV movement. "The reason for us for investigating a new technology in this space is that we're now in generation number two already of our NFV infrastructure. We didn't want to wait for the standards to be perfect, but we have learned there is a lot complexity in managing a distributed telco cloud environment with the orchestration, the multiple IP stack capabilities and also some inefficiencies."

"What Nefeli can provide is a simple mechanism to orchestrate virtual network functions in a telco cloud environment. That's the intent. We see that potentially as an evolution of our architecture to our third generation, which will be simpler, more scalable and faster."

Once the pilot runs its course, Voltolini said Colt will make its vendor choice, and then take a phased approach to the next generation of its NFV infrastructure.

"The typical technology lifecycle is you take five, six, seven years until you reach the full cycle between deployment and maturity," he said. Then you see end of life in production, and we'll start to see an overlap with this third generation."

Blockchain pilot heats up

Colt Technology Services has also been involved in multiple blockchain proof-of-concepts with several vendors and service providers, including Sparkle, PCCW Global and Tata Communications, and its a member of the ITW Global Leaders Forum's Communications Blockchain Network (CBN) group.The Communications Blockchain Network has been working to improve to improve inter-service provider settlements.

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"We're finalizing a blockchain deployment," Voltolini said. "It's around the settlement of wholesale voice using end month of reconciliation, which takes time, is expensive and not automated. We're moving that into the production environment over the next few months.

"We continue to run this alongside of our existing processes and compare the results with some of the other carriers. Once we're comfortable then we'll switch off the old process. The challenge with this is you need enough critical mass to switch off the old process. The trial is now moving to a production pilot."